NGOs are campaigning for a UN trade treaty without torture


  • by Thalif Deen (United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

According to Western countries, the world’s torturers were mainly in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and in authoritarian regimes in the Middle East – with a notorious reputation for whipping, blindfolds, handcuffs, electric shocks and public hangings.

In more recent years, torture and waterboarding have been common forms of punishment at US-run Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib prison in US-occupied Iraq, and US Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.

And in the heart of Amsterdam are a “Torture Museum” and a “Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments” with some of the equipment from times gone by.

Last month, London-based Amnesty International led a coalition of more than 30 civil society organizations (CSOs) calling for a treaty to control the trade in torture devices used to suppress peaceful protests and mistreat detainees around the world.

Dr. Simon Adams, chairman and CEO of the Center for Victims of Torture, the largest international organization that treats survivors and advocates for an end to torture worldwide, says it is sickening and outrageous that torture is illegal everywhere and everywhere. and under all circumstances, more than 500 companies from 58 countries still produce, market and sell goods used in torture on the world market.

“It is time to strictly regulate goods that are deliberately misused by some security forces for torture and to impose a global ban on goods that have no use other than torture.”

“We must ban this immoral trade in unspeakable human suffering. The UN General Assembly is our global parliament, and international law obliges states to help prevent torture.”

So the General Assembly should immediately pass a torture-free trade treaty and ban people and businesses from profiting from torture,” he noted.

In the statement signed in London on Jan. 20, civil rights groups (CSOs) launched a campaign calling for a treaty to ban the manufacture and trade of inherently abusive devices such as nail sticks and body-worn electric shock devices, as well as the introducing human rights-based controls on the trade in more standard law enforcement equipment, such as pepper spray, rubber bullets, and handcuffs.

These items are often used to commit torture or other ill-treatment, which are categorically prohibited under international law, the coalition said.

When asked if such a treaty should come to the United Nations, Verity Coyle, Amnesty International’s law and policy advisor, said: “Yes, Amnesty International is campaigning around the world for a torture-free trade deal through our Flagship Campaign – Protect the Protest..

When the report of the Group of Government Experts (GGE) was published on May 30, 2022, Amnesty published this PR response.

She said the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA) is the logical forum given the 2019 resolution, including the recommendations of the GGE report.

The Alliance for Torture-Free Trade (60+ members) is coordinated by the EU, Argentina and Mongolia.

In June 2022, Amnesty was invited to present its analysis of the GGE report at a meeting of the Alliance “and we continue to hold regular meetings with the EU, particularly pending a resolution being tabled to adopt a negotiating mandate to ask”.

Civil society in Latin America, Coyle noted, speaks regularly with Argentina about the process.

“Our sections around the world are about to hold a series of lobbying rallies in capital cities,” said Coyle, who is part of the global steering committee of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, of which Amnesty International is a member.

In September 2017, the EU, Argentina and Mongolia launched the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Alliance currently consists of more than 60 states from all regions of the world who pledge to “work together to further prevent, restrict and eliminate trade” in goods used for torture, other ill-treatment and the death penalty. In June 2019, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/73/L.94, Towards torture-free trade, initiating a process to “explore the feasibility, scope and parameters for possible common international standards” for regulating international trade in this area.

The first phase in this UN process resulted in the publication in July 2020 of a UN Secretary-General’s study of member states’ positions, which found that the majority of responding states supported international standards, most of which considered that this would be done through a “legally binding instrument establishing measures to control and restrict trade in goods used for capital punishment, torture or other ill-treatment”.

Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur on “the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism,” Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, is making a “technical visit” to the United States.

Between February 6 and 14, she will visit Washington DC and then the detention center at the US Naval Station Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Over the course of the next three-month period, Ní Aoláin will also conduct, on a voluntary basis, a series of interviews with individuals in the United States and abroad, including victims and families of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and former detainees in countries of resettlement/repatriation.

The visit takes place in accordance with the Terms of Reference for Country Visits by Special Procedures Mandates.

In addition to Amnesty International, civil society organizations campaigning for the treaty include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Article 36, Asia Alliance Against Torture, Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT), Harvard’s International Human Rights Clinic Law School, the International Commission of Jurists, including the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Amnesty International’s Coyle also pointed out that equipment such as tear gas, rubber bullets, batons and coercive devices have been used to intimidate, repress and punish protesters, human rights activists and others during police surveillance of demonstrations and in detention centers. in all regions, in recent years.

“Thousands of protesters have suffered eye injuries as a result of the reckless use of rubber bullets, while others have been hit by tear gas canisters, doused with excessive amounts of chemical irritants, beaten with batons or forced into stress positions by restraints.”

Despite this, there are currently no global human rights-related controls on the trade in law enforcement equipment. However, the UN General Assembly now has a historic opportunity to vote to begin negotiations on a treaty, she said.

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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